Now here is the thing, I’m a curious person, I like juxtaposition and competition but I am an optimist by nature. So I was intrigued to visit Roaring Fork in town, (I’ve been to the Austin location) a week after our outstanding visit to Renegade Canteen. Both are arguably the creations of Robert McGrath but one has him and one does not. Would the latter beat out the former, or would Robert’s latter beat out his former?
My amateur photography sure doesn’t help but even in person the first clue was the chicken roasting on spits in the entryway’s river-rock fire place. That roasting chicken was not performing any pavlovian tricks, olfactory or otherwise. It just did not jump out at you and say eat me, the way a good food marketing gimic should. Feeling sorry for the chickens, especially from a devoted carnivore is not a good start.
The second clue is that we arrived at 7:00 on a Friday night and though the restaurant was doing business, we secured a nice table for four without a reservation. A happy event for us, but maybe not such a good indicator for the house. Most of the business was at the bar, where they were having a great time. We sat and fate handed us a terrific and patient server, Melissa, who handled the myriad questions about the product from Mrs. P Chef and her good friend J. I call them the Yenta Mafia and they can go on (and on, and on; in a good way dear) asking about gluten, organics, farm vs. wild, foreign vs. domestic, etc. We learn alot about the ingredients and a lot about our servers professionalism and patience. Melissa was aces. Finally, an order was placed, with a few extra sides for the table.
The Green Beans were not a hit with our group, despite the vegetarian vote. The Green Chili, that people who know rave about at Renegade Canteen (but that I missed at my last visit), was at best decent. The Green Chili Mac & Cheese (which I did not have at Renegade Canteen) was great, just the right spice level (from jalapenos with spinach for extra color) to cut the cheesy smoothness. Everyone tucked in, despite the health hazards of cheese, spice and gluten.
After a brief pause, where Melissa was funny and attentive, our entrées arrived.
The Big A$$ ($$ because the kids might be reading) Burger was a heavy weight and a contender. I really enjoyed it, and did a lot of damage, but I did not dig way down and finish it off, the way I might have at Ray’s Hell Burger, Shake Shack, Indulge Burger, Five Guys or The Grind. All I can say is that it is Big A$$ and I was full, but that usually won’t hold me back.
Next came the let down of the other entrées.
Maybe its me, but none of those dishes above got any sort of a “WOW” they way they might have 10 years ago. I titled this post “Roaring for some Zing” because that is, to me, what was missing from the not inexpensive meal. Granted my camera skills can improve, and nothing was staged but I shoot everything with the same digital camera and same hurried staging. In my mind the underperformering dishes were either missing skill/talent or caring. They were long on campfire looks, but had none of the flair. If I didn’t know Robert was still well and truly alive and working across town, I’d say it was his ghost cooking the ghosts of his dishes. If we are headed back anytime soon, I’m sticking with the Big A$$ Burger and the Green Chili Mac & Cheese.